Ires: 40 years of research serving the world of work

The Institute for Economic and Social Research (Ires) celebrated its 40th anniversary on December 13, 2022, at the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (CESE), in Paris. This time, the researchers and the founding unions of the institute—including the Force Ouvrière, represented by Frédéric Souillot, its general secretary—debated the challenges of research for the labor movement. How do researchers—those from IRES but not only—inform trade unions about the world of work? ? How unions use Ires’ work and how they want to improve their tools ?

IRES is actually a tool of the trade unions, created in 1982 with the aim of meeting the economic and social research needs expressed by the representative trade union organizations. Funded by public funds and the secondment of civil servants, supervised by trade unionists, government representatives and scientific personalities, IRES carries out research at the request of trade unions and at the initiative of its researchers . The latter has no pretense ofenlighten the working class nor to provide theoretical foundations to his speeches, recalls Jacques Freysinet, economist at Ires. The articulation between unionism and research lies elsewhere.

A look back at 40 years of social democracy

Historical research specifically serves to sequence changes that have occurred in the world of work. Annette Jobert, researcher at the CNRS, laid out a chronology of 40 years of social democracy. From the first time, that of institutional reforms in the 1980s, and the Auroux laws that established mandatory annual wage negotiations. To that, between 1997 and 2000, of regulation of working hours by the state and companieswhen the laws of Aubry commit to reduced working hours in negotiations. Then, he continues, came the 2007-2008 season with the clarification of State and negotiating powersformalized in article 1 of the labor code, which imposes on the government a initial consultation with unions and employers before any labor reform. And finally, the recent period (2010-2019) in which the staff representative institutions were combined, the company agreement became the source of the norm and the branches wondered about their role. Annette Jobert raises three current questions: What is social democracy in VSEs ? What scope for collective bargaining is still under duress ? What is the participation of employees in company decisions ?

Research can also question the involvement of unions in public policies. This is what Jérôme Gautié, professor at the University of Paris 1, does in the field of employment and income policies. Since the back-to-work assistance plan (PARE) in 2001, unemployment benefits have been left the logic of insurance to be the incentive. Current unemployment insurance reform continues in this direction. This change is accompanied by control over the unemployed and penalties in the event of a refusal reasonable work. It asks the unions the question of democratic —or trade union—control of the triptych compensation-support-control of jobseekers, studies Jérôme Gautié. In addition, the activity bonus for an RSA recipient who takes up work, and his obligation to seek work, boundaries are blurring between unemployment compensation and solidarity income, explained the researcher. Finally, the reduction in social security contributions to low wages, object of a political and administrative consensus for 30 yearsresults in a socialization of income Low salary. Therefore these questions, which are of interest to unions: What is labor income? ? What is the minimum income? ? What is unemployment compensation? ?asked Jérôme Gautié.

We need unbiased studies to advance the debate

Research can also question the nature of unionism. Jean-Michel Denis (Paris I University) recalled that the representation includes a legal and sociological dimension (which resembles those it represents). Which for him leads to the question of the current unionism’s ability to do these two dimensions. For him, Elective representation is a deadly spiral of competition between unions. He invites them reject this assignment and in regain their autonomywhich he seems to place in a initial unionismborn of a criticism of political representation and rooted in a sociology group.

For her part, Cristina Nizzoli (Ires) studied union actions in favor of precarious workers: domestic helpers, caregivers in nursing homes, food delivery people. He explained that it was a job messy but carries a union renewal, title of his speech. Faced with fragmented work collectives, the union is returned to its initial mission of allowing workers to meet, he explained. The union can mobilize external support (family, association) to bring attention to its actions. And in taking the voice of precarious workers seriouslywho made this the experience of contemptwe give wayunionization experience.

The question of how trade unions use IRES research was the subject of a round table that brought together the leaders of the institute’s six founding unions. Especially the FO. The presence of various general secretaries reflects the importance of IRES for the trade union movement.

So all unions emphasize the interest of having data and analyzes resulting from a scientific approach. We need unbiased studies to advance the debateexplains Frédéric Souillot.

A tool for arguments before public authorities

Compared to other confederations, the Force Ouvrière has the particularity of carrying out many studies of international scope. Reliable international comparisons give us arguments against public authorities, especially when they want to initiate reforms on the grounds that things are better elsewhere., declared the general secretary of the FO. So the organization is at the initiative of a study on The deregulation of the electricity market in Europe (Michel Vakaloulis, November 2022) and its destabilizing effects on the electricity service in France.

The work of researchers is also an anticipatory tool for unions. As early as 2017, a study initiated by the FO discussed China’s geopolitical, social and environmental issues and rare earths (Ramatoulaye Kasse, April 2017).

Studies can also be used to train activists. At this point, Frédéric Souillot admitted that the FO don’t share enough the studies it mandates. He was joined in this observation by several other secretaries general. Unions are not the only ones neglecting the propagation of Ires’ work. A recent audit of the institute reported that, even within the State, which nevertheless sits on the board of directors of the Ires, sometimes we do not know the existence of the institution. Frédéric Souillot aims to change FO practices. Before, we shared [les études] together [les militants] who requested them, from now on, we will distribute them at round tables and through educational tools, he announced. FO will create “ research committee who will be responsible for this task. The work has been highlighted on the confederation’s website for several months: L’Ires, a research institute at the service of trade unions.

The request for more resources for Ires

Another area for improvement for Ires: better coordination of study orders, but no pooling. Frédéric Souillot recalled that IRES recently had a scientific council that doing forecasting studies and reviewing what has already been done. Coincidentally, this census justifies the costs of the institute, which come from public fundsexplained the secretary general of the FO.

But the Ires, which was actually financed by a public subsidy and the provision of civil servants, lacked the means. Its subsidy amount has decreased by 20% in 10 years and the number of staff available has also decreased. Several researchers have retired and will not be replaced.

This tool of the trade union is in danger of deteriorating at the very moment when they need it most, underlined several speakers throughout the colloquium.

So this request, repeated several times by the number 1 of the unions: the State, which has little regard for the cost when it comes to private practices, should increase the means of the Ires. The Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, who closed the day but apologized, did not hear this request. His representative in the chamber had no mandate to speak.

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